Although I couldn’t have predicted it, coming home from our trip to Notre Dame to find leftovers of this Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry stowed safely in our freezer was a perfect ending to a weekend of dear friends, soulful cheering, cool brews, and tasty food.

bowl of healthy red lentil curry with cauliflower garnished with cilantro

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The wonderful and terrible thing about graduating from Notre Dame is that my friends from college live all over the country.

This past weekend, Ben and I headed back to campus for the season’s opening football game, and I was incredibly blessed by the fact that so many of my friends returned to campus for the game.

It was a night game, which gave us plenty of time to catch up during a full day of tailgating, though as we hugged goodbye to head to our separate seats, it didn’t feel like nearly long enough.

Time with dear friends, it seems, is one of life’s greatest comforts of all—with this slow cooker red lentil cauliflower curry being a close second.

vegan cauliflower curry being stirred inside of a crockpot with cilantro

5 Star Review

“I made this and it tastes wonderful! The cilantro and full-fat coconut milk are a must!”

— Amber —

This slow cooker red lentil cauliflower curry offers the richness and warmth that I crave in my comfort food.

  • Unlike typical comfort-food recipes, this red lentil curry with cauliflower is healthy, so instead of feeling weighed down after a big serving, I feel soothed and satisfied (this Instant Pot Lentil Curry has a similar effect).
  • Leftovers can be easily enjoyed for lunch—leaving me full and happy (like this Coconut Curry), versus ready to slip into a food coma at my desk.
  • Plus, during busy work weeks, this recipe is a breeze to prepare since it’s made entirely in a crockpot (similar to this Red Lentil Curry with Sweet Potatoes.
bowl of vegetarian lentil and cauliflower curry, made in a slow cooker with coconut milk

How to Make Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry

Like 99% of my slow cooker recipes, this cauliflower curry requires almost zero prep beyond a little chopping: simply mix the ingredients together in your crockpot, set it, and go about your business.


The Ingredients

  • Tomato Puree. The base for our simple, homemade red curry sauce.
  • Red Curry Paste. Choose your favorite brand and adjust the amount accordingly to suit your taste preferences since some red curry pastes can be spicier than others. (Make this Thai Chicken Curry with leftover curry paste.)
  • Coconut Milk. Creamy canned coconut milk cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes and the heat of the red curry paste.
  • Cauliflower. A classic vegetable often used in curries (see this Curry Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes), because its mild taste can fully absorb the flavors of the sauce.
  • Red Lentils. Make this dish hearty and filling (like this Curry Lentil Soup). These mighty little legumes are filled with fiber, and a single serving contains a whopping 13 grams of protein.
  • Onion + Garlic. Adds a layer of added zip to the cauliflower curry.
  • Ginger. I love the bold, spicy bite fresh ginger gives any dish.
  • Spices. A blend of turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and cardamom season the dish with fragrant, earthy flavors with just the right amount of kick.

Substitution Tip!

You may swap the coriander, cumin, and cardamom for garam masala if you keep it stocked in your pantry. It is a spice blend that can be found in most grocery stores and specialty food or spice shops.

  • Cilantro. The perfect finish that adds color and freshness to this hearty dish.
  • Brown Rice. My favorite way to enjoy this red lentil curry is over a bed of brown rice. Quinoa, farro, or basmati rice would be equally delicious.
using a wooden spoon to stir healthy cauliflower red lentil curry in a slow cooker

The Directions

  1. To a larger slow cooker add the lentils, onions, garlic, cauliflower, ginger, curry paste, salt, and spices. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the tomato puree and water, stir, and cover.
  3. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours, until the lentils are soft.
  4. Before serving, stir in the coconut milk. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or farro, topped with fresh cilantro. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Place leftover curry in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Store curry in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
bowl of healthy Red Lentil Curry with Cauliflower

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Frozen Cauliflower in Slow Cooker Curry?

No. Frozen cauliflower is not recommended since it would easily become overcooked and mushy. It would likely also release excess liquid, making the curry too soupy.

What is the Difference Between Split and Whole Lentils?

Unlike whole lentils, whose seed coat is fully intact, the seed coat of split lentils is cracked. This causes split lentils to cook much faster than whole lentils. Split lentils are best for soups, curries, and stews while whole lentils are ideal for salads or side dishes.

Why are my Lentils Not Cooking?

Lentils may remain crunchy or tough if they have not been cooked long enough. The age of the lentils may also play a factor since old lentils tend to not become tender, even after hours of cooking. Finally, adding too much salt to lentils as they cook can also impact their ability to soften.

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Curry with red lentils

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry

4.64 from 11 votes
This slow cooker red lentil cauliflower curry is simple to prepare, healthy, and richly flavored. Perfect vegetarian weeknight dinner.

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 7 hrs
Total: 7 hrs 15 mins

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups split red lentils I like Bob’s Red Mill Red Lentils
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 head cauliflower chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger minced
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
  • 1 can tomato puree (29 ounces) NOT tomato sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk use full fat—it’s worth it
  • Freshly chopped cilantro for serving
  • Brown rice, cooked quinoa, farro, or similar for serving

Instructions
 

  • Place the lentils in the bottom of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Add the onions, garlic, cauliflower, ginger, curry paste, salt, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and cardamom, then stir to combine.
  • Pour the tomato puree over the top of the cauliflower and lentils. Refill the tomato puree can halfway with water, then pour it over the top of the slow cooker ingredients so that they are covered with liquid.
  • Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours, until the lentils are soft.
  • Just before serving, stir in the coconut milk. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or farro, topped with fresh cilantro.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Place leftover curry in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Store curry in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • The spices with an asterisk can be replaced with 1 1/2 teaspoons of garam masala, a spice blend that can be found in most grocery stores and specialty food or spice shops. If you can’t find garam masala, the spices I suggested in the recipe (which are more easily available), taste wonderful.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8) without riceCalories: 227kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 14gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 809mgFiber: 16gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 770IUVitamin C: 41mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 5mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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60 Comments

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  1. Couple questions before I make this fabulous dish!  What brand of curry do you use?  I recently have been using Mae ploy and it’s just too spicy for my kids. Also, half my family are cauliflower haters and the other half lovers so…do you think I could leave all the other ingredient amounts the same and just roast the cauliflower on the side?

    1. Hi Marci! I like Thai Kitchen brand, and I don’t think it’s too spicy (you can view it on Amazon here, but it’s available in almost every grocery store I’ve ever shopped: http://amzn.to/1NljlpX). You can definitely roast the cauliflower on the side (no need to change the recipe) OR you could swap other veggies your family likes more. Zucchini or diced potatoes would both be great!

  2. Thanks for posting this recipe.  I made it yesterday and I could not stop eating it.  Thankfully, it’s a large amount that I can eat off this week.  The spices are great and red curry paste with the other ingredients…SO good!  

    1. I’m so excited to hear that Shan! Thanks so much for taking time to let me know how this turned out, and I hope that you love the leftovers just as much :-)

  3. Made this for lunch today, and it was delicious.  My husband’s take on it was that “it’s weird, but not bad”.  He spent most of his life eating straight, boring American food, so this was a bit of a stretch for his taste buds.  I’m happy if he doesn’t complain!  I served it over wheat berries, and with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top.  I couldn’t taste the coconut milk at all, which was disappointing.  Next time I would put about half the cayenne in, and maybe a little more coconut milk.  It’s possible I didn’t stir the coconut milk in well enough to the portion I ate.  Even though the list of ingredients seems long, this was very easy to put together, which was nice.  Really glad I tried it.

    1. Susan, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this overall and are glad you tried it! Thanks so much for taking time to leave your review.

  4. Erin, Can you use curry powder instead of paste? If so what would the measurement be? I ask because I am trying to make this recipe salt/sodium free and I read that curry paste has salt in it. 

    1. Kelly, unfortunately curry powder and red curry paste have different taste profiles. I think curry powder would still be tasty though, just different! It’s hard for me to give you an amount, because I’ve never tried it this way. It’s not as strong as curry paste, so my guess is that you’d want 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

  5. Thanks, for this recipe, am looking forward to prepare it to my friends!  But the tomatoes puree, it’s seem quite a lot, is it 800 g cause am not very sure wht 29 ounces supposed to be? 

    1. Hi Lotte! I can’t say for certain since I don’t cook using grams, but a calculator I found online also said 800. I’d suggest just adding part and if it seems to thick, you can always put more in later. I’m sorry I can’t give you an exact answer, but I hope that helps!

      1. Alright, thanks by the way I was just wondering approximately how many cups of water do I need to put? 

        1. Hi Lottie—I looked online for the amount of cups in a 29 ounce can of tomatoes. It looks like about 3 1/2, so you would put in half of this amount, per the recipe (1 3/4 cup). Again, I’d suggest starting w/ less if you are unsure, since you can always add more but can’t take away.

    2. Hi I think tomato puree in the UK is a different thing, they just mean chopped or blended tomatoes rather than concentrated puree in the UK.

  6. I found your recipe this weekend and cooked it for this week’s lunches. It turned out great! The only modification I made was mixing in some kale into the brown rice before I put the curry on top. So tasty! Thanks for a great slow cooker recipe. I’ll definitely be back to your site to browse more great recipes.5 stars

    1. Sarah, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this! The kale sounds like a delicious addition. Thanks so much for trying the recipe and letting me know how it came out for you!

  7. I live in Canada, and I can’t seem to find tomato purree? in any store. Should I use cans of tomato sauce or jars of strained tomatoes or tomato paste ( plus water)? 

    Thank you for any advice!

  8. Thanks for sharing your recipe — it sounds delicious. One question: Can you freeze it with the coconut milk already incorporated?  

  9. I made this recipe tonight. It’s very tasty and turned out just as described. I did add more water than the recipe called for to make sure it was covered to the top of the ingredients. I’m glad I found this blog today and looking forward to trying more recipes. Thank you!5 stars

    1. Renee, I’m so happy that you found my blog too!! Thanks so much for trying this recipe and taking time to leave this kind note. It means a lot!

    1. Hi Jessica! I haven’t tried the recipe this way, but I think you could add either—just watch the cooking time, as it may need to be adjusted. I personally prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the slow cooker, because they stay more moist. Use your best judgement, and if you decide to experiment with the recipe, I’d love to hear how it comes out!

    1. Hi Sandra! To be honest, I don’t know that this is the best idea. The consistency of the tomato paste mixed with water would still end up being quite a bit thinner than tomato purée, so I think that you would end up with a soupier final dish. Definitely use your best judgment though, and if you decide to experiment, I would love to hear how it turns out!

  10. I accidentally put the coconut milk in the beginning. Will this make a huge difference in flavor?  

  11. Hi Erin, I made the curry and it was fantastic! The right amount of everything, I will definite make again. Thanks!5 stars

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the curry, Marie! Thank you so much for trying it out and taking the time to report back!

  12. Hi there! This recipe looks absolutely delicious! Quick question- when you say add the coconut milk just before serving, is it supposed to cook at all (like adding in 30 minutes or so before cooking end time) or just pour it over the dish at the end of cooking?

    1. Hi Jenny, I stir it in at the end, and the residual heat of the curry warms everything up. But you can let it cook for a few minutes if you prefer!

  13. I just made this receipe for the second time. So delicious! The best part is that my kiddos (20 months & 3 yr) LOVED it too w/ brown rice. Thanks for your passion to create healthy & flavor spectacular recipes. For parents out there….freeze in cubes & give to your little ones once they start eating solids….my son loved this even when he was 9 mo.

    Thanks again!! Cheers!5 stars

    1. HOORAY, Jessica, I’m so glad to hear this recipe is a winner for your whole family! Thanks so much for sharing this awesome review!

  14. Thank you for this recipe. Just made it. SOOOO good. Whole family loved it – and they are not lentil fans at all. Added some chopped salt and pepper cashews as topping.5 stars

  15. This is a favorite now! Nothing was too overpowering and it had a lot of flavor without having to be super spicy.  I didn’t have the red curry paste but added Penzey’s curry powder and it was very tasty.  Making it again for tomorrow! Makes quite a bit which was great for the week and made for a nice meal drop off for a friend with a new baby. My 3 year old enjoyed! We served with Naan and Jazmine rice. 
    Thanks for sharing this recipe; really appreciate you helping me to feel proud about whipping out something that tastes great and is healthy. 5 stars

  16. Hi Erin, I’ve made this a few times and love it so much!! Do you think GREEN lentils would work as well?5 stars

  17. How can you adjust this to an instant pot? I’ve tried making it in both a slow cooker and instant pot, and it actually turned out better in an instant pot. I don’t remember how I converted everything, though. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Jane! I don’t have a specific suggest as I haven’t played around with this particular recipe, but you could certainly reference my Instant Pot Lentil Curry to get started! https://www.wellplated.com/instant-pot-lentil-curry/

    1. Hi Mel, unfortunately I think frozen cauliflower would end up too soggy and release a lot of liquid, making the curry too soupy. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  18. I notice many comments about lentils not cooking. Could it be the difference between using whole red lentils and split red lentils which cook more quickly? I have found so many recipes in general don’t specify whole or split red lentils and it makes a big difference.

    1. Hi Sandra, that could be! It could also be the age of the lentils as well. I have only seen split red lentils at my store, so that is what the recipe used.

  19. Definitely a 5 star for flavor! I cooked it for 4 hrs on high and when I stirred in the coconut milk, everything turned to mush. Although flavorful, I would have liked more texture. The lentils and cauliflower all appeared to be a sweet potato mash. I did use split lentils, so next time, I will cook for a shorter time and cut the cauliflower bigger.5 stars

  20. I can’t buy canned tomato puree where I live. Can I peel tomatoes and blend them in the blender? Would I need to then cook them down to reduce liquid?

    1. Hi Karen! I haven’t tried it, but you could certainly experiment by making your own tomato puree. I’d suggest referencing a recipe like this one for tips on how to prepare your own. Thankfully, it’s freezer friendly, so you could make a big batch to use in future recipes as well!

  21. This was delicious. I added other veggies as I found them in the fridge, included finely the cauliflower stalks as well as the florets, and I didn’t end up adding the coconut milk because I froze the curry before then. Was lovely by itself (without rice or quinoa, etc.) Lots of flavour and a huge volume of food. Excellent for a Sunday cook-and-share! Looking forward to trying it with the coconut milk next time as I imagine it will be even better.5 stars

  22. It was first try with my new Crockpot. I followed the Instructions Section and missed that the instructions did not include adding in the 1 3/4 cups of water. It only mentions filling the tomato puree can halfway with water, not the 1 3/4 cups of water. So you can imagine how it turned out. And even with that small amount of water every turned to mush at the High setting for 4 hours.
    The lentils were cooked though!

    I would consider trying it again but other comments indicated that they wound up with mush as well.1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you had problems with this recipe. Filling the tomato puree can halfway with water is the instruction of using 1 3/4 cups of water, because the puree can is 29 ounces. There was actually only 1 comment about theirs turned out mushy, Myself (and other readers) have had success with the time listed, but every crockpot can be different.

  23. Would be good to have quantities in the recipe and guidance on how big to chop cauliflower. I fear I’m going to make sludge now I have read the comments below

    1. Hi Kathy, I’m confused because I see it on my end. The full recipe with the measurements was right in the recipe card above the area where you commented. There is also a “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page as well to help get you to the recipe card faster. Can you please double check? Thanks! Also if you need help in cutting cauliflower, this post might help you: https://www.wellplated.com/roasted-cauliflower/ or you could probably Google some tutorials.

  24. There is a lot to like about this recipe: it’s vegan, it’s cheap, it’s easy to throw together from stuff in my pantry, and it cooks in the crock pot. I made it exactly as written and it came out exactly as promised ~ my wife and I both really enjoyed it. If I had any complaint it’s that the primary taste is tomato, not curry. It also needed something to deepen the flavor, so I added a splash of liquid aminos at the table. Maybe next time I’ll add a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe and maybe some additional curry seasoning. We’ll definitely be making this again.5 stars